I find the QSK discussion interesting but it misses
perhaps the original purpose of QSK.
IMHO QSK was developed for the purpose of efficient
QTC via CW. When the information sending and
information receiving stations both use QSK, they do a
team dance that is wonderful to hear. Listen to the
NTS traffic handling nets. Under mediocre or poor
signal conditions, two such ops can pass traffic
FASTER than can be done via voice transmission under
the same conditions.
For nearly 20 years I was a shipboard Radio Officer in
the Merchant Marine and have handled thousands of
commercial messages, from both ships and from maritime
Getting full QSK onboard a ship was difficult,
probably because much of the equipment was designed by
folks who were not true CW operators. In the maritime
experience, full QSK was generally achieved via full
duplex - receiving on one frequency and sending on
The "purist" ham radio ops of today would have been
horrified to hear all the audio clacking of the
various relays and contactors aboard ship that clacked
with every dit. Since the separation between receive
and transmit antennas was generally less than a couple
of hundred feet, the receiver hash was tremendous.
It amazed me that some of the big Magnecraft and
Potter and Brumfield relays could really switch at 40+
WPM. Plus I had to modify my trusty old Heathkit
HD-1410 keyer to be able to handle the 100 plus volts
of cathode keying on the older Mackay rigs and more
mods to handle all the RF in the shack from the
typical end fed wire or whip antennas.
Yet, I got used to it and HAD to.
Many coastal stations actively transmitted info BACK
to you WHILE you were transmitting. Even worse,
sometimes they were sending to multiple ships WHILE
you were sending to them. They often had 3 or more
operators keying each transmitter. You were expected
to pay attention, break, backup, fill errors or even
listen for an instruction to change frequency WHILE
you were transmitting. God help you if you weren't
listening. The coastal station op would send a series
of dozens of dits to you. You could literally hear him
hop up and down angrily banging his key.
PCH/Scheveningen Radio in the Netherlands was famous
for running 2 to 4 ops per transmitter and even
WCC/Chatham Radio - Cape Cod often had two ops per
I've yet to hear the audio clacking of a relay in an
amateur transceiver that truly bothered me.
The unmodified sidetone of my Corsair II is music to
my ears compared with the shipboard equipment, that in
most cases had no sidetone at all. If I didn't have my
keyer's sidetone, I'd use a second receiver tuned to
my own signal.
When maritime CW was at its height, operating was
under continuous contest conditions. You were
competing with other shipboard stations for the
attention of the coastal stations, especially if they
had traffic for you....
One of my most difficult QSO's was when I was running
a coastal station. It took nearly 40 minutes to
receive a 25 word message from a Liberian freighter
off the coast of South Africa. He must have been
running 25 watts into a wet noodle. He mentioned that
he had called coastal stations for two days, with me
being the only one to answer him.
He was just at the noise level and I'd have to break
him until the QSB rose enough to hear him. I'd get a
letter or two and he'd fade, I'd break him until he
rose, get another letter and so on. Without QSK it
would have been impossible.
I always got my message through....
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